When it comes to literary genres, most people don’t automatically turn to cowboy poetry. Nor do many people think to travel to hear it. We book London show tours, travel to once-a-decade presentations of passion plays and visit great capitals to wallow in so-called “high culture” like ballet and opera. But a significant number of people regularly chose to travel to cowboy poetry festivals to hear cowboy poets share their earthy, personal, passionate reflections of life lived in the saddle or on the plains.
I don’t recall studying cowboy poetry in English class. In fact, I had never heard of cowboy poetry until I got cable TV and saw them on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, who amused his audience with annual visits from both competitive bird callers and cowboy poets.
I was fascinated by these characters. The cowboys always seemed to have
cliché nicknames, like “Slim” or “Tex”. As they lumbered, semi-bowled legged on to the stage, I imaged the dust trailing them. They sported big droopy mustaches, weathered hats, battered boots and shiny silver buckles.
Not to be outdone, Canada, I was surprised to learn, has our own cowboy poets. In fact, we have a thriving cowboy culture and a variety of cowboy poetry gatherings. One of the larger ones is the Stony Plain Cowboy Gathering, which has been held since 1992. Stony Plain (pop. 7,000) is 35 kms north of downtown Edmonton. It is where prairie meets boreal forest. The town has gained a reputation for the 27 large murals which decorate what would otherwise have been blank walls, turning the community into an open air gallery celebrating local history, agriculture, pioneers, native peoples, and the country doctor. Continue reading “Cowboy poetry celebrates a lifestyle in verse”